Bairavaa: A stale, disappointing film that is everything its teaser scared us of

As is only all too familiar in the world of masala films, Bairavaa (Vijay) can often be found lecturing various characters on morality and ethics. He uses the underwhelming opening song, ‘Pattaya Kelappu’, to provide generic advice like, “Edhiri vandhaa saaikanume”, and “Dharmathil nilachi nillu.” But of course, in these films, it’s never over with the opening song. At different points in the film, he establishes his wisdom on various topics. He talks about being a good husband; he talks about being a good policeman; he talks about the futility of saving money. I’m not sure if schools still allocate time for a class in moral lessons, but if they did, I think it will suffice if teachers just played bits and pieces from Bairavaa.

In keeping with the spirit of being an all-knowing entity, he talks to a doctor about the virtues of the medical profession. The said doctor, you see, has tried to humiliate a medical student, Malarvizhi (Keerthy Suresh), by asking her in class to detail the biological process of sexual reproduction in Tamil. I half-hoped for her to nonchalantly say something along the lines of “Udal uravu, pinbu karuththariththal, pinbu…” But of course, the film steps away from the potential quandary of having a heroine character talk such chaste Tamil. Instead, she gets tongue-tied and is almost on the verge of tears. So, anyway, Bairavaa hopes to knock sense into this professor’s head, and begins by smashing his name plate that reads ‘Paandurangam’ (பாண்டுரங்கம்). The ‘n’ (ண்) in the name flies, leaving behind an abuse as the prefix. What I’m thinking is, if Bharathan has spent time and resources in thinking up a Tamil name that leaves behind an abuse when a letter gets knocked off (think about it; it’s not easy), why couldn’t he come up with a half-decent story to save the film?

Bairavaa
Director: Bharathan
Cast: Vijay, Keerthy Suresh, Sathish
Storyline: A vasool mannan shows why he’s a vasool mannan

Yes, yes, masala cinema is usually not about the quality of its stories, but even given Bairavaa’s flimsy excuse for a story, the events unfolding are shockingly predictable and emanate the stale odour of a reused template from the 90’s. Bharathan seems to be a big fan of… ‘the old Vijay’, if you will. Yes, that Vijay, the first of his name, renderer of affected speech, holder of tongue in the cheek, breaker of henchmen’s bones, and dancer of kuthu songs. There’s also more he does in these films, of course. In Bairavaa, he’s shown playing cricket. Every shot he hits is reminiscent of a cricketing great (photos of Sachin and Sehwag get juxtaposed with his shots). He’s a commercial hero, so he doesn’t just hit great shots, but he also knocks evil men down with them. For a fleeting moment, I wondered if Bharathan was going for a parody of commercial cinema. Imagine that: One of the poster boys of commercial cinema making a mockery of the genre. Before you throw an accusatory look at me, it seemed possible for a brief while. I mean, which collection agent carries around different varieties of knives in his briefcase? It even has a grenade, if I remember right. But then again, this same collection agent is given the onerous, overdone task of a court speech. There’s nothing new in the dialogues, and it’s anybody’s guess why the judge lets him hog the limelight without unceremoniously having his interrupting ass dumped out by officers. In one scene, she’s even nodding along to his emotional appeals.

And what about Santhosh Narayanan? A case can be made for this being the worst film he’s been part of yet. His songs either serve to needlessly prolong proceedings, or get served with unimaginative visuals. The dreamy whistling in ‘Nillayo’ is simply Vijay walking with his lips curling into an ‘o’. The picturisation of this entire track, in fact, is a rehash of what countless heroes in commercial cinema have done, upon being obsessed with the good looks of the heroine. Bairavaa walks around, imagining other women to be Malarvizhi lookalikes. Can filmmakers kindly stop using this device please? He even hugs a bride in one scene. Malarvizhi thinks it’s adorable. That made me think she wasn’t.

Also, apparently, Tamil commercial cinema is so old now, its formula so used that heroes have now resorted to referencing their earlier films. You can understand Vijay’s temptation, considering that a relative newbie, Sivakarthikeyan, did that in Remo. And so, Bairavaa’s friend (Sathish) makes a reference to Kadhalukku Mariyadhai. Theri is referenced by Bairavaa and his friend calling each other ‘darling’. Ghilli is mentioned during war-cricket. Later, as Bairavaa engages in a game of Russian roulette with himself, he asks the bemused henchman, “Enakke Thuppakki?”

All you expect from these films is inventiveness. The disappointment is not that Bairavaa couldn’t be a Visaaranai. It is that Bairavaa isn’t even a Theri, let alone a Ghilli. The romance isn’t evocative. The songs aren’t particularly memorable. The fights are generic. The comedy generally isn’t funny. Oh lord, it isn’t. Sathish’s way of asking Bairavaa to drop him at Kottivakkam is saying, “Kottivakkam-la enna kottitu po.” He is also part of generic exchanges about women which go something like, “IT-la velai seiyara ponnu nighty-la nalla irukka maataa.” I didn’t find it funny; perhaps I needed some of that nitrous oxide stuff that a couple of characters in the film inhale at various points. As I walked out, I remembered one scene in which Bairavaa, smitten by love, is shown playing the fool with Sathish, and the latter rebukes him with a straight face, “Apdi pannaadha nu sollirukken la?” He may well have voiced out the thoughts of many an admirer of Vijay, who sincerely believed that the days of the actor doing these bland masala films were over.

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